DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Two years ago, Kurt Busch walked out of Daytona International Speedway at the beginning of the 2015 season in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series without having run the Daytona 500.
That seems a lifetime ago.
Busch left the 2.5-mile superspeedway Sunday evening as a Daytona 500 champion, his transformation from a frequently troubled, often angry driver into something better, more at ease with himself and all his surroundings, seemingly complete.
Winning the Daytona 500 is not easy.
Just ask Tony Stewart, co-owner of the Stewart-Haas Racing organization that fielded Busch’s winning No. 41 Ford in Sunday’s race. Stewart tried for 17 years to win NASCAR’s biggest race as a driver and never did, finally retiring as a full-time Cup driver at the end of last season.
“If I knew all I had to do to get it done was retire, I would’ve retired a long time ago,” Stewart joked.